Postcards from the Bleeding Edge
Sunday, June 17, 2007

  A fisher of mind

I spent most of friday in Rivas searching for guitar strings, and finally found them in a shop that also sold misc spare parts, and some foul smelling substance. Later on, the people I was with went to a local house and picked up a whole bunch of bamboo for a few dozen Cordoba. The house was near the lake, with a stunning view of the volcano, and the mosquitoes had a field day on me in the heat.

The night before was full of lightning and thunder, there'd be a flash, a frazzled boom and then a pop as the tv would go out with each near miss, then stagger back on again. I found the sole UPS this side of Managua friday too - 900 Cordoba - bought it, and dithered about plugging it into the stereo or the tv...

As my last recording of cybernation echoes through the happy house hostel, I pull at a cigarette, scratch my mosquito bites, and think, and type. I'd fully intended to ditch old habits this trip, but cigarettes run anywhere between 10 and 20 Cordoba depending on the brand, and the place, and there is no escape from them. I'm missing my gf and my piano, and staring into last night's nearly empty bottle of rum, trying to stop thinking, just for a little while.

Breakfast was 3 eggs, 2 out of 5 bananas, an onion, a tomato, and a pepper – 12 Cordoba. The official exchange rate is around 18.2 Cordoba to a dollar, so that's 65 cents for breakfast with some snacks and supplies left over for dinner. Fish, caught locally, should set me back another 20-30 Cordoba, tops, when I'm hungry again.

Mackaral here is totally unlike mackerel on the east coast of the US, it's not oily at all, its more like a tasty snapper, and especially good served as ceviche (raw, with lime juice), or cooked, with a garlic sauce. The locals pronounce the name with the accent on the final 'al' syllable.

The carrots look like they were born straight out of Woody Allen's Sleeper, they are so big and so sweet that just one constitutes a meal in itself.

So I sit here, pour myself another cup of outrageously good coffee (organic and naturally sweet), and try to remember why I came here...

Oh, yea, outsourcing myself.

In San Juan Del Sur there's no lack of opportunities to sell eggs in the gold rush, I took a little time out last night to write them down.

Local niches, like surf guide, landlord, real estate agent, taxi driver, surfboard/4wheel/bicycle rentals, etc, are filled to the brim with people applying energy and entrepreneurial sense with vigor... between naps.

Web Sites: Very few know how to create one, much less maintain it, and everybody wants one. None seemingly have grokked the wonders of Google adwords... but frankly I found web sites boring after doing 800 of them between 1994 and 97, but at 10 to 20 bucks an hour, it could be a living for a while. It doesn't cut into the molehill of debt I have left back home, but it would pay rent while I worked on creating something else, something new, something that scaled.

Voicemail: Voicemail is not sold as part of the basic cell phone service here (or, rather, if it is, I haven't figured out how to use it). All I need to do is resurrect my old firewall computer and an analog line card, and I could even do it disconnected from the net. A voicemail to email gateway, though, that would be truly innovative here...

eBikes. Attaching a battery to a bicycle seems like an obvious thing, nobody's apparently thought of it here. I haven't the foggiest idea what keeping the battery fed on that thing cost in electricity back in California, it was lost in the financial noise of having to run 11 computers... but I figure maybe there's a niche for it at a price somewhere between a daily bike and motorcycle rental. The roads are sufficiently brutal and near vertical enough to make the battery worthwhile. An Ebike's peak speed of 20mph is plenty fast, too.

I'm considering taking a place 4 km out of town, in a gated community near madjugal beach... I could make it into town and back on a single charge, and if I were to consider staying a few days in a hostel I could probably rent it out for more than what a hostel would cost me.... it would suck to have the bike stolen, though. Capital is a problem.

I could setup a network of battery exchanges on solar powered chargers, rent out or sell bikes, and cover the town with a dust-inc based credit card network...

The prospects for successfully outsourcing myself for work back in the US look slightly more dim.

For example, San Juan's DSL supplier has maxed out their DSLAM, so there's no DSL available; there's a multi-month waiting list actually. There's a goodly number of cybercafe's in town, all running probably the same copy of NT (most with the heartwarming everpresence of the firefox web browser). Quite a few PCs are worm-ridden, which makes me nervous about conducting financial transactions. Only one shop ('the solar cafe'), lets you plug in your own laptop, and as they are pure solar, they are only open til 6PM. There's free wireless available a short cab ride away (120 Cordoba round trip), but in order to get the best signal you have to sit outside the air conditioning and order up at least a drink or three.

Then there's the import/export business. I think of all the UM-3 mp3 players I could cram into a suitcase... it's a natural addendum to the local cell phone business.... and of dubious legality and much difficultly with the policia and customs service. Given my nascent Spanish, I think I will give smuggling a miss. One encounter with the AK-47 equipped policia could ruin my whole year, I could be hans reisered with no hope of bail.

I keep wondering, Why do you need an AK-47 here to put out traffic tickets? You could go through the system and pay the ticket through the courts, but they take your license and mail it to the district in question and it's anybody's guess if it will ever get there, so it's easier to just pay the fine on the spot. In fact, there's a 25% discount for that, as it saves on a lot of paperwork, for both you, and the policia in question.

When I think of the things I threw out before I left – a perfectly good 2.4 ghz antenna, a bunch of wireless cards, and a pair of cisco routers, I kick myself. What's left in my storage unit is valuable for my life in the states, but worthless, more of a risk to have than an asset to keep, here.

I took a double dose of anti-malarial pills (hydroxychloroquine sulfate) and spent the night in a twisted hot sweat. I dreamed I was talking about uploading conciousness to to a kafka-esq bug on my chest, and woke up screaming as the bug had told me he'd beat me to it, centuries ago, and life permanently online wasn't what the exotropians said it was going to be...

- Malaria sounds like a delightful alternative to the fucking pills.

My email friday night, from WDargahi AT unum.com

6 months pay, 6 months health coverage only, until I recovered, and nearly 5 years of my increasingly compound interest driven hell would have never existed, and you bastards can't even get my name right on half your correspondence. I'd still have a fucking phone number you could call, and I might have taken a vacation like this earlier and could still bring myself to care about the corporate dictatorship once known as America.

My voip server must be down. I'll have to download a copy of putty somewhere to fix it. I'd set up my main number to forward calls automagically to my voip phone, which hasn't been on due to lack of DSL, or my cell phone, which as been on, but flaky as hell...

It seems the megacorp in question has outsourced their final reply to india, which means that the explanations for their denial, already 4 years of byzantine, are about to become downright surreal with the addition of an indian accent. And no doubt, now that I'm traveling, that they will give me two weeks to appeal, via mail, from a place that has never had reliable mail service.

It's hard for me to think about throttling this wage slave over the phone, and it looks like she's even using her real name, unlike so many working the phones in this career path which is only one small step up from the phone-sex-business. I have empathy for her, for whatever she's going to say tomorrow, because she's just the messenger, and she has messages to deliver this way every fucking day. My real rage lies with the people at the top, and despite googling intensively I've yet to find a picture of or a reasonably recent location for the former president of his company, who retired with millions after only a few years of service.

The bug crawled halfway across the bed before I slammed him with a sandal. My blood, only slightly reused, now stains the sheets.

Labels: ,

 
Comments:
Dude, I think the webmaster thing would be ideal. You'll only have to do the first few sites... Then you can charge $15/hr and pay someone in asia $7/hr to do the actual work. You could also make money on the hosting, just throw it up on a system here (I can arrange that) and you get the recurring revenue as well.

Looks beautiful there. Why am I here?

-G
 
Mike,

EMail me a shipping address and I'll throw some hardware (routers, wireless cards, whatever) in a box and mail it.

-Chris
 
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